Nikon D810A: An Incredible DSLR Camera Modded to Shoot the Stars

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The Nikon D810A is a slight modification to Nikon's existing D810 professional DSLR powerhouse. Its guts have been tweaked to help astrophotographers shoot the beautiful cosmos.


Here's the key change: The D810A's infrared cut filter has been modified to let the hydrogen alpha spectral wavelength pass through. In other words, the camera's optics don't filter a light wavelength that's ideal for astrophotography.

At its core, though, the D810A is a camera very similar to the D810: it packs a 36-megapixel full-frame sensor plus Nikon's latest Expeed 4 processing engine. Still, there are some performance tweaks specific to astrophotography. The D810A's ISO sensitivity has been optimized to a narrower range, for standard settings from ISO 200-12,800. (They're expandable beyond that point, if you're feeling crazy.)

Additionally, there's a new long exposure manual mode that lets you set shutter speeds from 4 seconds all the way to 900 seconds. This gives you plenty of flexibility to be creative with exposures. Also, you know, shooting the dark sky at night takes longer than your everyday shutter speeds permit.

For years, Canon sold an astrophotography camera in the form of the 60Da. The D810A is a much different beast. First of all, the new camera way more expensive and its high-resolution, full-frame image sensor guts are fancier than what you got from the Canon's APS-C sensor guts. In short, the D810A is a much more substantial base camera, though, given the very specialized application, it's hard to say without testing whether it'll be worth the extra cost.

Speaking of which, pricing for the D810A is still TBA, but you can expect something considerably more expensive than the current $3000 body-only price for the standard D810. If you're gonna shoot for the stars, you're going to have to pay for it.



If someone can chime in, I'd appreciate an answer to this question. Currently, the maximum shutter speed (without going into Bulb mode) for the vanilla Nikon D810 is 30 seconds. This new Nikon 810A is 900 seconds which corresponds to 15 minutes. That is quite the increase, however, what is to prevent me from going into Bulb mode and taking a 15 minute (or longer) exposure? Aside from the less optimized hydrogen-alpha output (for astrophotography use), is there any inherent difference? I ask because I upgraded from a D800 about a month ago to a D810 and I really liked the output I got in landscape astrophotography from the D800. While I haven't had a chance to put the D810 through those same paces yet, I'm wondering if purchasing the D810A might be something I should look into especially if it takes the same non-astrophotography photos (probably have to be a bit more careful with the white balance in-camera and during Lightroom post-processing). It'd be nice if I could get a good resale price on my D810 if the D810A is that much better in astrophotography.